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Japan Translation Federation - Translation Festival in Tokyo
Posted by Donald A. DePalma on December 2, 2015  in the following blogs: Technology, Translation and Localization, Market Data
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CSA Research participated in the JTF Translation Festival, the annual conference of the Japan Translation Federation (JTF). This year's theme was a retrospective look at 25 years of the JTF and a glimpse into the future as "the translation industry challenges the expanding market with endless innovation."

One such innovation is machine translation. With the 2020 Olympics on the horizon, earlier this year the Japanese government invested 1.38 billion yen (around US$11 million) in real-time speech translation work by Panasonic, NTT, KDDI, and the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), one of the organizations exhibiting at the conference. Japanese adoption of MT has lagged behind that of many other countries, so this investment was a significant but still small step forward for the market. 

Why is MT important for the Olympics? Japanese is not a widely studied language, so most tourists will need linguistic assistance. The Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications expects 20 million foreign visitors in 2020, up from 13 million today. NICT is focusing its energy on the 10 languages that it expects will be spoken by 90% of the Olympic tourists – but it should increase its goal to the 14 languages that CSA Research has found to be required to hit that target.

NICT's spoken translation app, VoiceTra, is available at your favorite app store. Our limited testing on an iPhone demonstrated reasonable but imperfect translations under controlled conditions. But given the total inability of many foreigners to speak or understand Japanese and the continuing evolution of MT technology, mobile apps like this one means that many more tourists will have a more fulfilling travel experience. CSA Research will soon launch a survey on MT usage. Contact us if you'd like to take the survey when it's available.  

Meanwhile, back at the conference, the JTF agenda would be familiar to attendees of any language-related conference such as the ATA or EUATC – but with a focus on the Japanese market and most presentations in Japanese:

  • Keynotes. The plenary sessions provided some excitement from external and industry perspectives, including Robert Alan Feldman, Managing Director and Chief Economist of Morgan Stanley, and Natsuko Toda, a well-known Japanese author and translator of subtitles for films such as "ET," "The Last Samurai," and various 007 films.

  • Industry issues. Presentations addressed topics of general industry interest, including the current state of and future of machine translation, ISO 17100 certification, discussion of specific industries such as patent and pharmaceutical translation, and the importance of creating demand for services outside Japan.

  • Best practices. Sessions for translators and interpreters presented approaches to career development, how to specialize by industry, translating for children and young adults, and dealing with racially sensitive topics (although the title for this session, "To PC or Not to PC," did pull in some attendees expecting a discussion of Windows versus Mac rather than "political correctness"). 

  • Market analysis. CSA Research spoke on the topic of "Why Localization Is More Important than Ever to Japanese Companies," in which we analyzed B2C and B2B requirements for translation and localization, outlined global trends, and discussed the language services sector in Japan.
Not surprisingly, Q&A sessions and hallway conversations often turned to complaints about rates, the difficulty of finding qualified translators (especially for Japanese into English), and "Japanese perfectionism" – that is, the expectation that companies have for very high levels of linguistic quality and service that some delegates insist can be provided only by Japanese-resident companies and translators.

The Festival drew nearly 1,000 participants. Delegates included mostly suppliers working in the Japanese language services sector. Besides these LSPs and freelancers, it attracted translation technology companies and a contingent of end-buyers. The 40 exhibitors included mostly Japanese LSPs such as Honyaku Center (#14 on CSA Research's list of the largest 100 global LSPs), Human Science (#71), and TOIN; global LSPs based elsewhere, such as Lionbridge (#1), SDL (#5), and STAR (#6); and non-Japanese tech suppliers such as Kilgray, Memsource, and Plunet.


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